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This photo show a man who has been starved nearly to death. It is not the man mentioned in the story, but he could have looked this way.

This photo shows a man who has been starved nearly to death. It is not the man mentioned in the story, but he could have looked this way or worse before death.

Dying To Be Healthy

In 1910, Earl Edward Erdman, a City of Seattle Civil Engineer had a good life.  Still, he had a few aches and pains and became convinced that through the process of fasting, bodily toxins would be removed. Erdman was dying to be healthy, he wanted happiness and a long rewarding life. He felt fasting would make him healthier and cure any of his minor health problems. He put his trust in the watchful care of a physician but on March 28, 1910, Erdman died of starvation in Seattle General Hospital. How could this have happened if a doctor was overseeing his care?

Dr. Linda Hazzard, responsible for many deaths by starvation.

Dr. Linda Hazzard, responsible for many deaths by starvation.

Who Was This Doctor?

Dr. Linda Burfield Hazzard was a licensed physician in the State of Washington. She did not have a medical degree but because of the laws of Washington at that time, she was able to practice “alternative” medicine. Dr. Hazzard was a staunch proponent of less medication. She believed that fasting, and consuming only vegetable broth, would remove the toxins that made your body sick. You’d be cured of all disease which would give you a happier, healthier life. Another part of the regimen were enemas that lasted for hours and vigorous massages that were described by some who overheard them as “beatings.” So thoroughly convinced was Hazzard in the process that she wrote a book in 1908, “Fasting For The Cure of Disease.”

Diary of A Man Dying to be Healthy

Earl Erdman was under Dr. Hazzard’s care to lose weight. He kept a diary of his diet for the last two months of his life and the excerpt below shows the food he was allowed to have under Dr. Hazzard’s care.

February 1- Saw Dr. Hazzard and began treatment this date. No breakfast. Mashed soup dinner. Mashed soup supper.

February 5 through 7- One orange breakfast. Mashed soup dinner. Mashed soup supper.

February 8- One orange breakfast. Mashed soup dinner. Mashed soup supper.

February 9 through 11- One orange breakfast. Strained soup dinner. Strained soup supper.

February 12- One orange breakfast. One orange dinner. One orange supper.

February 13- Two orange breakfast. No dinner. No supper.

February 14- One cup of strained tomato broth at 6 p.m.

February 15- One cup hot strained tomato soup night and morning.

February 16- One cup hot strained tomato soup a.m. and p.m. Slept better last night. Head quite dizzy. Eyes yellow streaked and red.

February 17- Ate three oranges today.

February 19- Called on Dr. (Dawson) today at his home. Slept well Saturday night.

February 20- Ate strained juice of two small oranges at 10 a.m. Dizzy all day. Ate strained juice of two small oranges at 5 p.m.

February 21- Ate one cup settled and strained tomato broth. Backache today just below ribs.

February 22- Ate juice of two small oranges at 10 a.m. Backache today in right side just below ribs.

February 23- Slept but little last night. Ate two small oranges at 9 a.m. Went after milk and felt very bad. Ate two small oranges 6 p.m.

February 24- Slept better Wednesday night. Kind of frontal headache in a.m. Ate two small oranges 10 a.m. Ate on and a half cups hot tomato soup at 6 p.m. Heart hit up to ninety-five minute and sweat considerable.

February 25- Slept pretty well Thursday night. Ate one and a half cups tomato broth 11 a.m. Ate one and a half cups tomato broth 6 p.m. Pain in right below ribs.

February 26- Did not sleep so very well Friday night. Pain in right side just below ribs in back. Pain quit in night. Ate 1 and a half cups tomato broth at 10:45 a.m. Ate two and a half pump small oranges at 4:30 p.m. Felt better afternoon than for the last week….

This diet continued more or less unchanged until his hospitalization on March 28. He died that afternoon, just before his coworker was to transfuse blood to him.

Wilderness Heights Sanitarium aka Starvation Heights

Linda Hazzard operated a sanitarium in Olalla, Washington in the early 1900s. Known as Wilderness Heights Sanitarium, her treatments of extreme fasting were provided to those who had the money to pay for it. During the time of the Sanitarium, which eventually became known as “Starvation Heights,” at least 40 people died from her treatments, but she claimed they died from conditions that were already present and too far advanced for her cure. She was known to forge their wills and to steal their valuables while they were in her “care.”

Convicted of Manslaughter

In 1912 Hazzard was convicted of manslaughter for the death of a wealthy British woman, Claire Williamson who weighed less than 50 pounds at the time of her death. During her stay at the sanitarium, Hazzard had forged her will and stolen most of her valuables. Her sister Dorothea also took the treatment and only survived because a family friend, having received a smuggled telegram notifying her of their condition, came and removed her from the premises. She was down to less than 60 pounds and unable to get herself out of the sanitarium. However the intervention was too late for Claire, and Hazzard received a sentence of 2 to 20 years in prison. However, she was released after serving only 2 years and eventually given a full pardon by Governor Ernest Lister. A big question: Why was she only charged with one death, when so many had died under her care? It seems nothing could be proven because she always had a ready answer about the person’s disease or condition having been too far along, so that her treatment was too late. She said they died from natural causes.

New Zealand Trouble

She and her husband Samuel Cristman Hazzard moved to New Zealand where she practiced as a dietitian and osteopath until 1920. But Auckland charged her with practicing medicine while not registered, under the Medical Practitioners Act. She returned to Olalla, Washington, where she again opened a sanitarium known as a school of health, since her medical license had been revoked. She still practiced her fasting regimen, finding that there were many who believed in it enough to pay well. In 1935, the sanitarium caught fire and burned to the ground, no cause was ever mentioned and it was never rebuilt.

The Twist and the Irony

You just knew there would be an odd twist to the story didn’t you? The ironic end is this:  Linda Hazzard convinced herself so thoroughly of the benefits of fasting that when she became ill, she immediately put herself on the regimen. She died in 1938, probably from starvation, as it’s certain it did not help her illness.

This book by Gregg Olsen tells the entire story of the horror that enveloped those who took the “treatment” at Wilderness Heights Sanitarium. It’s a fascinating look into the psychology of someone who had no compassion for the suffering of others. I own the book and I highly recommend it.

Starvation Heights: A True Story of Murder and Malice in the Woods of the Pacific Northwest


Here are my picks:  Books By Linda Hazzard about fasting (if you’re curious about what she did) and by numerous other authors about eating healthy (which are the best!)